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Saddle Fit and Top 10 List

By Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CSE
©2017 Saddlefit 4 Life® All Rights Reserved.

I remember a couple of years ago when David Letterman was still on TV and his ‘top ten’ lists were probably my favourite part of his show. So I thought it would be a fun idea to post some ‘top 10’ lists that I have compiled over the years; many thanks particularly to Cavallo magazine in Germany which provided a lot of the ‘food for thought’ on these lists.  And someone once told me that lists containing 10 items are the most popular because “10” is a significant number. (We have 10 fingers, 10 toes, there are 10 commandments, etc.)

10 SIGNS OF SADDLE PRESSURE (caused by a poor saddle fit):     

  1. Tight muscle at front edge of shoulder blade
  2. Lame in the front, if insertion of longissimus pinches at withers
  3. Pinched withers cause twitching at the elbow
  4. Muscle atrophy (visible dip) at the withers
  5. Hair loss, blisters, inability to move the skin around in the SSA
  6. Bucking reflex activated by saddle that is too long – causes ‘hopping’
  7. Atrophy at the croup – pressure on the spinal nerves causes one-sided development of the muscles as horse tries to avoid pain
  8. Energy blockage of the meridians can cause heart, circulatory, and breathing issues
  9. Gullet channel which is too narrow impedes expansion of the longissimus àcan block the movement of the forehand and cause uneven sweating
  10. Girth pinching will shorten strides


  1.  They have a quick reaction time ( these horses are observant and sensitive to intention – may react before rider actually  gives the aids)
  2. They can concentrate (able to work long and hard and can deal with more repetition when learning)
  3. They will learn quickly (new tasks are interesting – love the challenges)
  4. They are easily motivated (praise and rewards increase their willingness to learn)
  5. They have a great memory (once a lesson is learned, even years later they will react to the stimulus or aid)
  6. They tend to spook (will react intensively to distractions)
  7. They are escape artists (generally very capable motor skills)
  8. They can be too sensitive (quick reactions and don’t forgive inattention of the rider)
  9. They will never forget a transgression (will remember the pain or lack of rewards – poor experiences are retained)
  10. They need a smart rider (smart horses need stimulation at least 1/2hour day or will develop stereotypies from boredom.

(Debunked and proven through various experimental research activities and documented by and with thanks to Cavallo magazine in Germany)

  1. Only unfit riders use a mounting block. Actually: a horse finds it difficult to balance the weight difference from left to right during mounting, and it is also better for the saddle and leathers
  2. Rollkuer (hyperflexion) is good gymnastics. Actually: it impedes breathing and vision, tightens the back, and causes anxiety.
  3. Cavessons put undue pressure on the horse’s nose. Actually: a well-padded, well-fitting cavesson with properly positioned fittings is optimal for lunging a horse.
  4. ‘Joining up’ (natural horsemanship) is horse-friendly training. Actually: Joining up is unnatural behaviour and can even cause psychological damage to the horse.
  5. Thicker bits are better for the horse’s mouth. Actually: thicker bits are designed badly and often cause pinching due to lack of room in the mouth.
  6. Hay causes obesity. Actually: Hay is better for the horse’s constitution than oats. Too many oats (prevalent in high-performance horses) can cause overweight.
  7. Bandages protect the horse’s legs. Actually: Bandaging can damage the lymphatic system of the cannon bones. Compression ‘socks’ are recommended; the best support for the lymphatic system is exercise!
  8. Short trailering trips get horses used to the trailer. Actually: stress levels are highest at the beginning of the trip; horses don’t really ‘relax’ until after at least ½ hour driving.
  9. Horses will find their way home. Actually: horses don’t have an inner compass, as zebras seem to have.
  10. Horses can’t vomit. Actually: when their stomachs are filled to bursting they can – vomiting does signify a lethal situation however and requires immediate attention!


  1. Oats are the best energy food – easily digestible.
  2. Solid training needs time; horses should be ‘broken in’ at age 4 and basic training should be at least 2 years (as was done in the military)
  3. “Bleeding” seems to help for founder – it’s a middle-ages cure that is finding a renaissance
  4. Cavessons are the best tool for lunging. It just doesn’t work with a bit and bridle.
  5. Praise helps in the learning process, as do food rewards. (Slaps on the neck actually scare the horse!)
  6. Stereotypical behaviour is contagious. It’s not – it’s usually due to stress or boredom (such as weaving for eg).
  7. Arabs have one less vertebra. Not necessarily – variations can occur in all breeds.
  8. You shouldn’t look at your horse when you lead him. That’s just silly.
  9. Teeth can tell a horse’s age. That’s about as reliable as reading tea leaves. It’s an inexact guess at any time.
  10. Keep your heels down! This edict is as old as it is wrong – this position will totally cramp the leg all the way up to the hip.

And Finally…

10 QUOTES about HORSES from famous people

  1. A horse is a thing of beauty… none will tire of looking at him as long as he displays himself in his splendour.  (Xenophon)
  2. There’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse. (Ronald Regan)
  3. The spirited horse, which will try to win the race of its own accord, will run even faster if encouraged. (Ovid)
  4. All you need for happiness is a good gun, a good horse, and a good wife. (Daniel Boone)
  5. Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people. (C Fields)
  6. Take care to sell your horse before he dies. The art of life is passing losses on. (Robert Frost)
  7. I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse. (Charles V)
  8.  When your horse follows you without being asked, when he rubs his head on your and when you look at him and feel a tingle down your spine…you know you are loved.  (John Lyons)
  9. To understand the soul of a horse is the closest human beings can come to knowing perfection. (Author Unknown)
  10. No heaven can heaven be if my horse isn’t there to welcome me. (Author Unknown)